Food

Quick, Fast and Easy: Stir Fry Success

When you master the art of a good stir-fry, the world of healthy, quick food becomes your kingdom.

The right wok
Torontonians and Vancouverites have it made when it comes to shopping for a good, inexpensive wok. Any large Chinatown will have a selection of traditional woks made of carbon-steel – the best choice for rapid and even heat conduction. No matter if you cook on gas or electric heat, a flat-bottom wok is the way to go for stability and ease of use. Look for a wooden- handled wok to prevent burns. While a traditional wok is preferable, it's okay to use a non-stick, modern wok or large frying pan. Just remember that most non-stick surfaces are not designed for high heats, thus, stir-fried meat will not sear and cooking times will be longer.

Chop, chop
Good knife work is essential for stir-fry success. Every component of your stir-fry –from tofu to veggies to meat- must be cut into uniform, bite-size pieces to ensure even cooking. Meat, fish and poultry are usually cooked separately from vegetables since cooking times vary.

Cook like a boy scout
Their motto is "be prepared" and Chinese stir-fry masters share that mantra. Before you turn on the heat, have everything completely ready. Line up all your measured and prepared ingredients and sauces and place them close by. Once you start cooking, a Zen-like focus is required (no cell phones or instant messaging) until the dish is complete.

Stir-fry success
Oyster sauce is the backbone of flavour-packed vegetable stir-fries. Add a tablespoon in the last moments of stir-frying broccoli, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, bean sprouts, snap peas, etc. When stir-frying a mixture of veggies, remember to factor in cooking times. Longer-cooking vegetables include broccoli, red and green peppers, cabbage, onions and carrots. Shorter-cooking vegetables (added later) include snow peas, bean sprouts, baby spinach, and any Chinese leafy greens such as bok choy or choy sum.

A little meat goes a long way
Chinese stir-fries usually contain lots of vegetables and only a small portion of meat, chicken or fish. This healthy equation can be enhanced if you serve your stir-fries on brown rice, which contains almost three times more fibre than white, and more magnesium, manganese and vitamin E.

Less fat
Stir-fries do not need a lot of oil to taste terrific. When stir-frying vegetables, start with just one to two tablespoons of canola oil and add water or chicken stock by the tablespoon when the wok starts to get dry. Also, put on the cover and steam-cook until tender.

Don't double up
Stir-fry recipes are designed for a single wok and cannot be doubled successfully.